Research can have 'real' impact

April 7, 2000

I would like to correct some misconceptions about the Office of Science and Technology's consultation document on the Sixth European Framework Programme for Research and Development.

The document is not suggesting any "narrowing of the European research agenda". Article 163 of the treaty defines the objectives as: n Strengthening the science and technology bases of community industry to support European Union competitiveness internationally

* Promoting research to address policy problems in areas such as health, transport and the environment.

The treaty provides for research in support of particular goals rather than science for its own sake. EU framework programme expenditure accounts for only about 5 per cent of total EU public civil R&D. It makes sense to focus this on topics that need cooperation to achieve critical mass. "Subsidiarity" suggests that member states are best placed to support basic science, while the EU is best placed to foster exchanges and cooperation.

Research objectives for framework programmes are defined in consultation with researchers and customers. These include commission directorates general, which need to be aware of developments in science and use them if they are to develop policies intelligently. Project funding decisions are made in a competitive process, based on scientific excellence independently assessed by external experts.

Miles Parker Director, International Science and Technology, OST

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